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Rugby Union: Jason White's thank-you note for top award.

Byline: By Roddy Duncan

SCOTLAND skipper Jason White last night spread the credit around as he was named the first-ever winner of the Professional Players' Scotland Player of the Year award.

The Sale Sharks flanker insisted on sharing the glory with coach Frank Hadden, his international team-mates and the Scotland fans.

White won the award ahead of Mikey Blair, Ally Hogg, Chris Paterson, Sean Lamont and Andy Henderson.

He said: "This prize should not really be for me - it should be dedicated to Frank, everyone connected with the team and the supporters.

"A year ago we were well and truly in the doldrums but now we can look back on a season of significant progress.

"Frank did a remarkable job in his first Six Nations in charge and our marked improvement has been a truly collective effort.

"Beating tournament favourites and eventual champions France in our first match was a tremendous feat but the Calcutta Cup triumph over England was something else entirely.

"All the players worked terrifically hard and there is no doubt the influence of the fans was very, very important.

"But the job is far from finished. All we have done is turn a corner and proved we can compete with the leading sides. Now we have to turn our focus on staying on the upward path which leads to the World Cup in France 18 months from now.

"Our next step is the end-of-season encounter with the Barbarians at Murrayfield and then tour Tests against South Africa. These games will give us an up-to-date yardstick of where we are."

Hogg had the consolation of lifting the SPRA Pro Team award ahead of Edinburgh team-mates Paterson, Ally Kellock, Blair, Scott Murray and Borders' Chris Cusiter.

Reivers hooker Ross Ford was named Young Player of the Year in front of Scotty Lawson, Garry Law, Phil Godman, John Barclay and Johnny Beattie.

Meanwhile, sporting Cusiter yesterday said he hoped his rival for the No.9 jersey, Blair, can inspire the Scots to success against the Springboks in Durban on June 10 and Port Elizabeth on June 17.

Cuister was speaking at the Scottish Parliament as the Calcutta Cup was launched on a tour of the country.

He said: "It's a massive disappointment to miss the South Africa tour. I've never been there and the last time we played them I got a knock on the head early on, so my bad luck has continued.

"It's frustrating because I've been enjoying the rivalry between Mike and myself and I wanted to continue it.

"But I hope Mike performs well and helps us beat South Africa. I'll be cheering as loudly as anyone.

"Hopefully I can come back 100 per cent for pre-season and then stay injury-free right through to get a shot at the World Cup but I know Mike has his chance now."

Cusiter revealed he had hoped to avoid an op to make a late bid for the South African tour. But he said: "It's around a 16-week recovery time for me.

"A couple of weeks after the injury it seemed to get a wee bit better so I was hopeful I perhaps wouldn't need surgery but a scan showed I did."


ONE FOR ALL: White healed Hadden, team and fans
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 21, 2006
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